My youngest son Hayden recently started kindergarten, a big day for any parent. I was especially thrilled as an educator to see my little boy begin this journey. His joy and excitement reminded me of my first day of school. I couldn’t wait to get to class, meet my teacher, and make new friends.
I’d grown up with my oldest sister taking me to her college classes while she was training to be a teacher and letting me explore her university textbooks because she believed in my curiosity and my potential to learn. At the end of my first day of kindergarten, I didn’t meet my sister at our pick-up place. When she found me still in my classroom, certain I was in trouble, my teacher was wearing a big smile.
I hadn’t done anything wrong; my teacher announced that I was reading well above grade level, and she wanted to put me in a more challenging reading class. Because my sister believed in my promise and gave me challenging, rigorous texts to engage with from a young age, I was not only prepared for kindergarten, I was able to thrive from day one.
Even after 15 years as an educator, I still get jitters every year on the first day of school because of all of the possibilities that lie ahead. We have so much to accomplish, and the stakes are high: it’s both exciting and daunting at the same time. Being prepared from day one helps me feel ready to tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities that will ensure all students’ potentials are recognized and developed.
For me, just like on my first day of school, preparation starts with the instructional materials in the classroom. What our students are reading and what supports they’re using makes a difference in what and how they will learn. From one educator to another, I want to share some advice with you, compiled over the past decade and a half, about what I’ll be doing to start my year off right.
Getting School Started Right:
- Know your materials.
It’s important to become familiar with the instructional materials you have available to you and that you’ll be using throughout the year.
Check out if EdReports.org has a report for the materials your district has adopted. Take a look at your materials in relationship to the standards, examining if the materials you’re using will get your students to where the need to be by the end of the year.
Understanding where your materials stand is the first big step in knowing where you might need to look for supplements and other supports.
- Work with others.
You’re not alone. I remember in my first years in the classroom, I spent hours and hours searching for materials by myself.
In hindsight. I could have been using that time to support my students, become more familiar with their work, and figure out ways to ensure they were challenged and growing. I tried to tackle problems on my own when I should have been working with a group of colleagues.
Climbing the materials mountain with other teachers makes the ascension far less daunting. Review in a group—work together with proven tools like EdReports to understand your curriculum.
And if you’re the only teacher of a particular grade level or subject in your school, EdReports can be that colleague. The reviews have so much information and are presented in such organized detail, that they can be a support for teachers reviewing materials on their own.
- Don’t give up.
Getting to know your materials and identifying adjustments is tough and time-consuming, but the process is worth the effort.
By having high quality, standards-aligned curriculum, you’ll be able to focus on refining your craft and implementing what you’ve prepared rather than spending all your efforts on the planning.
Having the capacity to concentrate on instruction and reviewing student work will in turn help you support all of your students to grow and thrive from day one.
It’s going to be a great school year. I hope you’re as excited as Hayden and I are to get started!